Bruno Mars: Super Bowl winner

Written by Scott Mervis on .

super-bowl-footballJULIO CORTEZ/AP

Skip Bayliss said this morning on ESPN’s “First Take” that when Percy Harvin returned the second half kick-off for a touchdown, they should have brought Bruno Mars back out for the second half.

The pop star was certainly on his game more than Peyton Manning and the Broncos Sunday night.

A whole 90 minutes of Bruno Mars may have been problematic, as he’s a little short on material and it would require him to do “Gorilla,” lighting up the FCC hotline, but for those 12 minutes, we couldn’t have asked for more from the Grammy winner.

The opening drum solo was designed to win him instant cred, and it worked. From there, Bruno and his Hooligans launched into their James Brown-looking revue with “Locked Out of Heaven” (from the Sting playbook) and “Treasure” (very Kool and the Gang), during which he revealed, for the uninitiated, that he has the whole package, with the Motown/Stax vocals and the JB footwork, not to mention the songwriting.

I have to admit that I flip the station a lot when “Grenade” and “Just the Way You Are” come on, because they’re played out, and the vocals verge on whiny. But as a live performer, he’s a dynamo, as he displayed in his full set at the Consol Energy Center in July.

The fact that he dresses like the band, and pretty much stays in a line with them, tells you everything you need to know about his lack of ego. Just like the Seahawks, he seems to be a team player.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers were trotted out there for the 40-and 50-somethings, which is kind of a weird thought, generating a cool collision between the two bands on “Give it Away.” With the fireworks and lasers and topless Peppers, it had that all-hell-breaking-loose quality that the game sorely lacked.

It was a fun addition, but Bruno didn’t need the help. He’s been out on the road long enough that he could have filled that three minutes without letting the energy drop.

The reflexive response to Super Bowl halftime is to bash the singer for being too old, too pop, too crude, too whatever, and even though he sings and dances like a champ and draws from classic R&B influences, Bruno has not been immune. Facebook and talk radio are filled with critics today, including the PG’s own Ron Cook, who sounds like he would eliminate halftime altogether.

If James Brown, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke (combined!) came back to life and stepped out there in their prime, people would still be complaining. Like the Buffalo Bills, on the Super Bowl stage, the performers can’t win.

Bruno, however, got as close as you can get. Not U2, not Prince, but somewhere in the discussion of top 10 Super Bowl halftimes.

And here comes the plug. It was announced today that another leg of his “Moonshine Jungle Tour” begins in April. It’s not coming here, but you can catch him in Cleveland on June 28 and Buffalo on June 30.

If you haven’t seen him live, it’s more talent than spectacle and well worth the trip.

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Counting down to signing day 2014: Offensive line/tight ends

Written by Sam Werner on .

Signing day is almost upon us. Pitt just announced today that Paul Chryst will hold a 3 p.m. press conference on Wednesday to discuss the newest Panthers, and I'll of course be in attendance. For now, let's take a look at the big hefties coming in this class...

Verbal commitments:
Alex Bookser (6-6, 295 lbs)
Mt. Lebanon High School (Mt. Lebanon, Pa.)
Rivals: 4*, No. 22 OT
Scout: 4*, No. 13 OT
247: 4*, No. 18 OT

Mike Grimm (6-6, 328 lbs)
Bethel Park High School (Bethel Park, Pa.)
Rivals: 4*, No. 26 OT
Scout: 3*, No. 67 OT
247: 3*, No. 42 OT

Connor Hayes (6-4, 270 lbs)
West High School (Traverse City, Mich.)
Rivals: 3*, NR
Scout: 3*, No. 67 OG
247: 3*, No. 50 OT

Brian O'Neill (6-6, 230 lbs)
Salesianum School (Wilmington, Del.)
Rivals: 3*, NR
Scout: 2*, NR
247: 3*, No. 55 TE

While Pitt certainly missed out on some other important targets this year, landing Grimm and Bookser, probably the two best offensive linemen in the WPIAL, was huge for this class. Bookser is an elite prospect, and I think Grimm might be a bit underrated by recruiting services (and some fans) because he was a very early commitment to Pitt, and that probably deterred some other schools from offering him. He was a fixture at most Pitt home games this season and, I can say from standing next to him, he is a very large human being. At the very least, he has a massive raw physical frame for Chryst and offensive line coach Jim Hueber to work with.
For whatever concerns there may be about Chryst's recruiting ability, he has not had any problems bringing in good offensive linemen. Pitt looks good at offensive for next year, so I would expect that — barring a lot of injuries — all three of the linemen will redshirt in 2014. Chryst has also said that, especially with offensive linemen, it's always better to redshirt than not. Pitt has recruited well enough at the position over the past couple of years, that they now have that luxury with Bookser, Grimm and Hayes.
At tight end, O'Neill is an interesting prospect. He committed to Pitt last summer, and saw some increased interest from other programs after a very good senior season. With his size, he's definitely a true tight end, rather than the hybrid position that Pitt used a lot this year (think JP Holtz vs. Manasseh Garner). He'll probably take a redshirt, but if he can develop a good receiving game, at 6-foot-6, he can be a real weapon as a pass-catcher.

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Pitt recruit Rowan on torrid free-throw streak

Written by Mike White on .

Items that fell off my laptop.

Lincoln Park sophomore Maverick Rowan is an excellent shooter. But what he has done lately from the free-throw line goes beyond excellence. 

It is perfection.

Rowan, who accepted a scholarship from Pitt last summer before his sophomore year, has made 41 free throws in a row. He has gone eight games without missing a free throw. His last miss came in a Jan. 10 game against Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. 

Rowan, a 6-foot-6 guard, also has made 55 of his past 56 free throws. For the season, he is 83 of 94 (88 percent). (Rowan is pictured below).

Maverick Rowan 400x365

It is not known what the WPIAL record is for consecutive free throws made. I did find a few streaks longer than Rowan's. Rob Kezmarsky made 52 free throws in a row in the 1989-90 season when he played for Laurel Highlands. Kezmarsky is now Uniontown's coach.

Also, I found Latrobe's Tom Mueseler of Latrobe made 48 in a row in the 1967-68 season. Mueseler signed with Clemson. I also found an old athlete of the week story I did on Sean Miller when he played at Blackhawk. He made 44 of 45 free throws at one point. I still remember him telling me his routine, "one, two, three, elbow to knee." In other words, three dribbles, bend until his elbow touched his knee and then straight up.

Rowan has a ways to go for the national record on consecutive free throws. Darryl Moreau of New Orleans De La Salle made 126 in a row from 1978-79.

Incidentally, Rowan leads Lincoln Park in scoring at 23.4 points a game. All five starters average in double figures for the Leopards.

Another title for Uniontown

Speaking of Kezmarsky, he has guided Uniontown to a 10-0 record in WPIAL Class AAA Section 3 play and the Raiders play Mount Pleasant tomorrow night. Mount Pleasant is 9-1. If Uniontown beats Mount Pleasant or if Uniontown wins its final game against Laurel Highlands, Uniontown will win its 47th section title, the most in WPIAL history.

Section 2 battle

Isn't the race in WPIAL Class AAA Section 2 interesting? Plum is in first place with a 10-2 record, but four teams are tied for second at 8-4 - Fox Chapel, Franklin Regional, Gateway and Central Catholic. Depending on what happens this week, there could be a pretty decent team not making the playoffs. Or there could also be a tie for the fourth and final spot and all five teams could go.

Remember the name

I have yet to see him play, but I trust some coaches and others who have, and here is a name to remember in WPIAL basketball for the future. Phil Jurkovec.

Jurkovec is only in eighth grade at Pine-Richland but is gaining quite the reputation as a stud player. He plays for Pine-Richland's ninth-grade team and it's not uncommon to see him score 30 or even 40 in a game. He's about 6-3 and already throws down dunks in games.

From all indications, look for him to have an impact on Pine-Richland's varsity next year.

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Creation-evolution debate on the way

Written by Peter Smith on .

If you haven't had enough of high-stakes conflict following the Superbowl, here's another reason to put out the guacamole and chips: To watch a debate over evolution versus creationism.

Bill Nye the Science Guy, the media-friendly teacher of scientific concepts, put it bluntly in a recent viral video post when he said belief in creationism is not just wrong, it's harmful to children:


"I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your ... world that's completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that's fine, but don't make your kids do it, because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers."

Now he's facing some criticism among his fellow scientists for agreeing to debate creationist Ken Ham in the latter's home turf, the Creation Museum in Kentucky, which promotes belief in a literal six-day creation and worldwide flood and depicts dinosaurs co-existing with humans in the garden of Eden and on Noah's Ark. 


Ham invited Nye to debate, saying people often lose their faith in Christianity as a whole when they start to question the literal reading of any portion of the Bible, beginning with Genesis.

It's hard to remember a time when two such high-profile champions of these viewpoints got in the same room for a debate. Maybe when Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan (or at least Spencer Tracy and Fredric March) met in the courtroom? 

Some evolutionary scientists refuse to debate creationists. “Framing it as a formal debate, you’re saying there’s controversy to begin with. And there’s really no controversy in the scientific community,” Dan Phelps, head of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, told The Courier-Journal of Louisville

But Nye hopes to change some minds. The debate will be livestreamed.

Americans are still sharply divided over human origins, although surveys give different measures for the divide.

According to the Public Religion Research Institute, 57 percent of Americans believe humans and other living things have evolved, while 38 percent believe they've stayed the same since creation. The Pew Forum has a slightly larger amount believing in evolution. In both groups, those believing in evolution are divided between those who believe God was or was not involved in it.

But according to Gallup, 46 percent believe God created humans in their present form, 32 percent say God guided evolution and 15 percent say evolution occurred without divine help. 

It's no surprise that white evangelicals and black Protestants are the most likely to believe in creationism, Catholics less so and mainline (mostly white, often liberal) Protestants and the unaffiliated are even less so. And like everything else, there's a political divide. Republicans are more likely to believe in creationism, Democrats in evolution.


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Another big whiff by TV weather forecasters

Written by Jon Schmitz on .


snowTime for another check of how well those long-range winter weather forecasts issued in the fall by Pittsburgh TV meteorologists are holding up.

KDKA’s Jeff Verszyla might want to crawl into the hole with Punxsutawney Phil, having predicted 7.9 inches of snow for January and “slightly above normal” temperatures. The actual total was 17.9 inches, ninth-snowiest January in recorded history per the National Weather Service, and the monthly average temperature was 6.2 degrees below normal, making it the 16th-coldest January on record.

Mr. Verszyla said we’d get 32 inches of snow during the entire season. With February and March still to go, we’ve had 42.3 inches.

WPXI’s Stephen Cropper said we’d get 12 inches of snow for the month with “mild spells” before mid-month when Arctic temps would lock in. Not bad on the temperature forecast. Bad on the snow forecast, nearly 50 percent off the mark. Mike Harvey of WTAE came closest on the snow forecast, predicting 15 inches, but said temperatures would average 0.5 degrees below normal. Swing and a miss.

Our forecast: These guys will continue to shamelessly offer long-range forecasts in an effort to hype their ratings. We should assign those forecasts a zero percent chance of credibility. (Photo by Larry Roberts of the Post-Gazette)

Our review of the weathercasters' performance for the month of December can be found here. (Scroll down.) And our first report card, for November, is here.


The right lane on northbound Route 51 will be closed between Stewart Avenue and Ivyglen Street in Overbrook starting tonight and continuing weeknights through Feb. 28. The closure will be in effect from 7 p.m. daily until 6 a.m. the following morning for utility work related to the Route 51-Route 88 intersection project.

Inspection of overhead signs could cause lane closures on the Parkway West/Interstate 376 between Pittsburgh International Airport and Hopewell from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. between Exits 13 and 15 in Butler and Lawrence counties.

Rodi Road in Wilkins will have alternating one-way traffic on the ramp over Chalfant Run south of William Penn Highway from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays through Feb. 10. Crews are doing research for a future project.

Banksville Avenue has reopened from McMonagle Avenue to Potomac Avenue. The road was closed Oct. 17 for landslide removal and construction of a wall. More work is planned in the spring.

Work to convert the intersection of Streets Run and Prospect roads in Baldwin Borough to an all-way stop requirement is scheduled Tuesday starting at 10 a.m. An engineering and safety study concluded that traffic from all directions should have to stop.

The Wabash Tunnel will be closed from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today through Friday for replacement of a ventilation fan.

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